Follow-up so far (18 December 2012)
Although absolutely no response from the Overberg Municipality was received to date (since 25 October 2012), the letter was handed to the mayoress of our region yesterday at a meeting of the Rate-Payers Association. I am sure that we can expect a formal response in due course from the Overberg Municipality...
The following letter with the subject line "Complaint: Satyrium carneum and municipal mowing" was emailed to the Gansbaai office of the Overberg Municipality this afternoon (25 October 2012). I await their response, which I will also publish here.
I am writing to you to find resolution for the serious concern that I have regarding the destruction of the flowering Satyrium carneum (Orchidaceae), an IUCN endangered species listed South African rare, endemic geophyte in the servitude of public open space entering the town of Gansbaai on either side of the roadway (with specific reference to the recently mowed seaward-facing side).
The Overstrand Plot Clearing Policy is clear in its purpose and its responsibilities, indicating amongst others that the authorised officials of the local municipality have the final decision in when and how a plot of land is cleared. However, The National Heritage Resources Act (Act no. 25 of 1999) requires local authorities to compile inventories of heritage resources within their area of jurisdiction. The Overstrand Municipality has appointed the Overstrand Heritage Landscape Group to compile such an inventory and to grade heritage resources in terms of the criteria identified in the Act. The Act identifies that the heritage resources of South Africa which are of cultural significance or other special value for the present community and for future generations must be considered part of the national estate and fall within the sphere of operations of heritage resources authorities. The Act specifies a place or object is to be considered part of the national estate if it has cultural significance or other special value because of (not limited to) its possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of South Africa’s natural or cultural heritage. Our endemic and endangered species therefore must form part of our natural heritage.
The area of land mentioned above contains an incredible concentration of the endangered species S. carneum. This species is in full flower at this time in the area and is pollinated by sunbirds. The plant dries out shortly after flowering, allowing the dispersal of seeds by wind. The plant then remains dormant underground in the form of a tuber which gives rise to subsequent growth in the following season. The mowing of the servitude before the plants have had opportunity to set viable seeds to further future generations is ignorant and irresponsible and jeopardises the viable continuity of this local colony. Additionally, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, Act 10, 2004 defines a “threatening process” as “a process which threatens, or may threaten- (a) the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of an indigenous species; (b) the ecological integrity of an ecosystem” and states that “a municipality must adopt an integrated development plan in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (Act No. 32 of 2000), and take into account the need for the protection of listed ecosystems.” Further to this, no person may carry out a restricted activity involving a specimen of a listed threatened or protected species without a permit issued in terms of Chapter 7 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act. Restricted activity includes (but is not limited to) “picking parts of, or cutting, chopping off, uprooting, damaging or destroying, any specimen of a listed threatened or protected species.”
It is obvious that there is conflict here. However, it should be remembered that in the event of any conflict between a section of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and a municipal by-law, the section of the Act prevails.
Therefore, I would like to exercise my right to freedom of information and request firstly to view your (and/or contractor’s) permit issued under Chapter 7 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act to undertake the restricted process of mowing on this land, and I would like to request a copy of your integrated development plan highlighting the listed protected ecosystems in the area. In addition, I would like to discuss a remedial plan to conserve these (and other) endangered plant species by the simple integration of protocols to avoid future problems as indicated above.
I look forward to hearing from you."